Hilary Heath, Actress in 'Witchfinder General,' Dies of COVID-19 Complications at 74

The Oblong Box_Vincent Price, Hilary Dwyer - Photofest - H 2020
American International Pictures/Photofest

She worked alongside Vincent Price in three movies, then turned to producing 'An Awfully Big Adventure,' 'Nil by Mouth' and 'Rebecca.'

Hilary Heath, the British actress and producer who starred opposite Vincent Price in the American International Pictures horror films Witchfinder GeneralThe Oblong Box and Cry of the Banshee, has died. She was 74.

Dwyer died March 30 of complications from COVID-19, her godson, Alex Williams, wrote on Facebook.

After retiring from acting, Heath produced Mike Newell's An Awfully Big Adventure (1995), starring Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman, and Nil by Mouth (1997), written and directed by Gary Oldman.

She was married to talent agent Duncan Heath from 1974 until their 1989 divorce, and they launched the agency Duncan Heath Associates, which was sold to ICM in 1984. He is now co-chairman of Independent Talent Group.

Born on May 6, 1945, in Liverpool, England, Hilary Dwyer studied ballet and the piano as a child and then appeared as a stage actress for the Bristol Old Vic.

After working on The Avengers and other TV series, she made her big-screen debt as the terrified niece Sara Lowes in the gruesome Witchfinder General (1968), directed and co-written by Michael Reeves. (The filmmaker died soon after the movie's release at age 25 of an alcohol and barbiturate overdose.)

Following a turn in The Body Stealers (1969), she reunited with Price in Edgar Allan Poe's The Oblong Box (1969) and Cry of the Banshee (1970).

"I adored Vincent," she said during a 2010 panel discussion. "I played his mistress, his daughter and his wife. And he said, 'If you ever play my mother, I'll marry you.'" 

She also appeared in Ted Kotcheff's Two Gentlemen Sharing (1969), and in a 1970 adaptation of Wuthering Heights featuring Timothy Dalton, she portrayed Isabella. (Geraldine Fitzgerald played the character in an Oscar-nominated turn in the 1939 best picture Oscar nominee.)

Her last onscreen appearance came on a 1976 episode of Space: 1999.

Her producing credits included the 1986 telefilm The Worst WitchCriminal Law (1988), directed by Martin Campbell and starring Oldman and Kevin Bacon; and TV adaptations of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and Frenchman's Creek and Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone in 1997, '98 and '03, respectively.

The Economist wrote about Heath's death in an article titled "How COVID-19 Is Changing Funerals."

Survivors also include her son, Daniel Heath, a film composer (Big Eyes), and her daughter, Laura.